Every day I feel the crushing weight of public opinion straining my will. Men and women alike (though it tends to be insecure men) attempt to shame and embarrass me simply for being who I am and not taking any shit from anyone. Growing up watching westerns and shows with strong, outlaw characters with my dad gave me the impression that being tough and outspoken are traits looked up to by most of the spineless public. Not so in women.
My parents sent me mixed messages all my life. My dad was domineering and abusive and our relationship was rather odd. He treated me like a boy, for the most part, and my younger brother was in his eyes a “sissy” and “mama’s boy”. He made me develop a tough skin, but it couldn’t strengthen the inside as much. We watched movies and TV shows together a lot, until our eventual “weirdness” that was menstruation. After that, I seemed to be some sort of alien being, but not like the cool ones from the sci-fi themed movies and shows we loved.
As for my mother, we did not have a lot in common. I liked reading and masculine entertainment and she was a soap opera junkie with the emotional range to match any character on them. When my dad would threaten her or throw things at her, or the few times when he actually hit her, I would wonder why she didn’t stick up for herself better. I wanted her to hurt him back and was always angry because she didn’t do it. I wanted her to be like my heroes and I could not, for a long time, see her as anything but weak.
Flash forward to my life today: opinionated and feisty woman of her mid-twenties just now finishing her Bachelors after a string of bad decisions. I am very polite to people in public and at school and dress femininely because it is more comfortable for me as an overweight woman, but since my entertainment interests have always had a masculine flair, I am driven to be around men. Being around men comes with a price: male humor and social behavior. As a feminist and Anthropology major, it is a daily battle to defend what dignity I can keep in the face of a constant barrage of hurled insults “meant to be funny” and the pathetic insecurities of microscopically endowed men.
With every ounce of will power that exists in me, I deflect most of the blows as they are generally harmless and a socially acceptable form of male interaction…but at times I can feel the walls inside of me start to crumble in the midst of attacks on my appearance and attractiveness. Rage starts to fill in the voids where there once was control, the rage I have kept harnessed all of my life, the range at every man and woman who has ever tried to own or possess me only to discard me like a condom after they have had their pleasure.
At other points in my life, my will has broken and I have released the hate-filled bile that accumulates in this familiar part of my throat, causing untold heaps of guilt and self-loathing to settle firmly in place within my head. Girls being hateful are nothing to be endured, especially fat girls who should just shut up and accept their pathetic position at the bottom of the Beauty Hierarchy. So I have been told countless times after these instances. I should just give up the bitchery and take up the cutlery.
The other night was different. After years of counseling, I have made the conscious attempt at talking it out with my attackers, of trying to bury the hatchet and carry on, since I do come into contact with many of them often, as a gamer. My black and bizarre sense of humor is something I have had to accept as an acquired taste, but very rarely does it inspire anyone to insult me personally. Him: I lost something only semi-important, I am going to lament about it for a few minutes. Me: Oh, I am sorry, I sold it…money is getting tight, what with Sally and the baby to take care of. I meant to pay you back! (There is obviously an implied sarcasm to this statement; the phrase itself is a trope.) Him: Do the world a favor and get your tubes tied. Seriously.
People are interesting, sure. Interestingly fucked up, infinitely. After keeping my will reined in long enough to seriously discuss the from-left-field comments made about me, I finally gave up. I had supposedly went too far by joking with him, as he had only known me a few months, which gave him cause, for the second time mind you, to insult me on a personal level and make serious something light-hearted and meant only to stifle whining.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often in my life and has as long as I have been living. It has been enough to keep me quite distant from people at large and to hold my cards close to my chest. After all, that is how my father has lived for so long and what better teacher could a child have than their parents? All I can imagine, in this kid’s case, was that his mother knew her place (to be quiet and exist like a houseplant) and that women being silly and not at all concerned about how attractive they are being is some sort of sin against mankind. I feel defiant in not wearing makeup, I feel defiant that my heroes are tough as nails assholes who don’t take shit from scum like him. And I will never bow or break. Thanks mom, I now realize your true tenacity. Thanks dad, wherever you are.